The race to put a self-driving car on the road is in full swing with BMW, Tesla, Apple, and Google all vying to be the first.
But ultimately, it may be Swedes who come out on top.
This week, Volvo announced that it will put 100 production ready autonomous cars in the hands of actual consumers by 2017.
This initial pilot run will see the company’s self-driving technology move out of the laboratory and put through the ringer in real life by regular owners.
“We are entering uncharted territory in the field of autonomous driving,” Volvo senior vice president Dr Peter Mertens said.
“Taking the exciting step to a public pilot, with the ambition to enable ordinary people to sit behind the wheel in normal traffic on public roads, has never been done before.”
The 100 car pilot program will take place on the streets of Volvo’s hometown in Gothenburg, Sweden. It is reported that the city has given the company and its customers approval to cruise around selected public streets with car’s autonomous drive program in control.
According to Volvo, its autopilot system is reliable enough that it will be able to take over every aspect of the driving experience. The automaker says its system will be able to handle everything from everyday driving to gridlock traffic to emergency situations.
To achieve this, the Swedish car maker will depend on a complicated network of sensors, cloud-based positioning systems and intelligent braking and steering tech.
The sensors include seven radars, 12 ultrasonic sensors, five cameras, and a laser scanner.
All of them work together to allow the driver behind the wheel to do just about anything except drive the car. If any of the systems on the car do fail, Volvo said that there are redundant backup systems ready to take over.
Volvo is so confident in its autopilot system that its engineers believe their self-driving tech is better than humans when confronted with an emergency.
“In a real emergency, however, the car reacts faster than most humans,” Volvo’s Dr. Erik Coelingh said.
In cases where the autopilot must shut off due to weather or malfunction, the car will prompt the driver to take over. If the driver fails to take control in a timely manner or if the driver is incapacitated, the car will actually bring itself to a safe stop.
So far there is no word when the technology and the legal regulations will allow Volvo to expand its autonomous drive program, but we are certainly looking forward to it.
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